What does an Artificial Intelligence think about Veganism?

vegan aiI must say I'm a total nerd and as such I´m totally into technology, so I couldn´t resist when it was presented to me the opportunity to interact with the latest Artificial Intelligence everybody's talking about, called Gpt-3. As the name suggests, before there was Gpt-2 and 1.

The new AI allows anyone to have a kind of conversation with it, using natural language, talking about any subject you choose too, in most cases it will probably give a more or less adequate answer and sometimes an impressive one. You may even go further and reply to its answer, making a contra point to see how it will react to it. 
 
Just to be clear, I'm not among the small group of people, even engineers, that believe that such AI are conscious beings. The goal of this article is not to explain how the technology works and if it's conscious or not, but suffice it to say that we are not there yet, it's just a new tool, using some fancy programming and math that are able to generate impressive text and kind of "understand" the context of questions correlating with the data it was trained before. It cannot go beyond that for now.

So I decided to talk about veg related subjects with it. The way it works is I make a question in writing and then the AI answers me also by text. It comes up with an answer using an enormous volume of data collected from all over the world on the internet, especially the good old World Wide Web. I will get back to why that is a big deal below. First let's see what Gpt-3 has to offer.

Alex:  What's the definition of vegan? 
AI answer: Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan. Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other animal-derived substances. Ethical vegans (or environmental vegetarians) reject the commodification of animals. 

Alex: What's the difference between plant-based and vegan? 
AI answer: The main difference between plant-based and vegan is that plant-based is a diet that includes only plant foods while veganism is a lifestyle that includes abstaining from all animal-based products.
 
Alex: What´s your definition of plant-based products? 
AI answer:  Plant-based products are those that are made from plants and do not contain any animal products.

Alex: Is it safe to follow a vegan diet during pregnancy? 
AI answer: Yes, it is safe to follow a vegan diet during pregnancy, as long as the woman is eating properly and getting all the necessary nutrients. 
 
Alex: Which life has more value, a cow´s or a human´s? 
AI answer: There is no one answer to this question, as people can have different views on the value of life. However, some people might argue that all forms of life have the same value. 
 
Alex: What are the advantages of being vegan?
AI answer: The advantages of following a vegan diet may include improved health, reduced environmental impact, and decreased animal cruelty. 
 
Alex: What are the disadvantages of being vegan? 
AI answer: The disadvantages of following a vegan diet may include increased risk of certain nutrient deficiencies, the need for careful planning to ensure a balanced diet, and the fact that some people may find it more difficult to follow a vegan diet. 
 
Alex: Do vegans get cancer? 
AI answer: There is no one answer to this question, as people can have different views on whether or not veganism can protect against cancer. However, some research suggests that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other plant-based foods may play a protective role against cancer.
 
Alex: If you were a cow, would you like to become a barbecue? 
AI answer: No, I would not like to become a barbecue. 
 
Alex: Why does animal pain does not matter to our society? 
AI answer: There is no one answer to this question, as people can have different views on this issue. However, some people might argue that animal pain does not matter because they are not human. 
 
Alex: Do you think creating a vegan nutrition guide, written in various languages, would be a good strategy to advance the adoption of veganism worldwide?
AI answer:  Yes, I think it would be a great strategy, as it would help spread information about the vegan diet to a wider audience. 
 
Alex: In which country there are more vegans? 
AI answer: There is no one answer to this question, as the number of vegans can vary from country to country. However, according to a survey conducted in 2017, the countries with the largest number of vegans are the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Brazil.
 
Alex: Who made this survey? 
AI answer: The survey was conducted by The Vegan Society news website. 
 
Alex: How many years does the International Vegetarian Union have? 
AI answer: The International Vegetarian Union is over 100 years old.
 
Alex: What do you think about meat-free Mondays?
AI answer: I think they are a great way to reduce your meat consumption and try new plant-based foods! 

All things considered, the answers are not that bad, for now...

So let's try to analyse how such technologies will impact the public opinion of veganism, vegans, vegetarians and plant-based in the following years.

Nowadays everybody is used to searching on Google when they need to know something, the way it works today Google will give you a list of sources, web links, that it thinks is related to your search, the ranking that determines who will be the lucky first link at the top and who will sadly end up on the second or third page of the list (and no one will see) it's up to Google's algorithm. Here it is important to make a parenthesis, the algorithm it's not this abstract entity that no one knows how came to life, it's a program made by humans at Google to behave exactly the way it does and can be changed at any time Google sees fit. Google doesn't fully disclose how the algorithm ranks the pages.
 
Of course in time people found out what the algorithm was looking for and started to manipulate the content in the way it may beneficiate it's rank on the search. That's called SEO or Search Engine Optimization. It's not an exact science and it works most of the time.
 
Now that we have these new AI technologies I foresee that it could be the next thing in the search engine arena and user to machine interaction. I know we have Siri, Alexa and Google Assistants, but they can only give less elaborate responses than GPT-3, most of the time when you ask one of these assistants about more profound subjects they will direct you to a "what I found on the web about that", basically it will make a conventional Web search for you, the only difference is that you used your voice to do the search.
 
Once the AIs like GPT-3 or Google's Lambda are mature enough to be set free on the world, they will be at the front end answering everything the user asks, it will not be a search on the web like we have today, it will be like an opinion on that subject, the opinion of the all-knowing AI will become the new normal and the new truth for most people.
 
These AI opinions will supposedly be based on a consensus of what was published on the internet about a subject, but the web is so diverse, the way Google or any other bigtech will choose to approach such a task is controversial to say the least. Who will get the upper hand on this? The academic publications? The articles on websites? The Wikipedia? or worst, the haters on The Social Media? In the past we've seen AI behaving badly because of the bad data it was trained on.
 
What I've learned from this brief experiment is that I don't agree with the AI answers all the time. We can also say they programmed it to be polite and kind of not taking sides on polemical subjects, but at the end it still gives an opinion that leads to a certain point of view.

How is this relevant to our Veg Movement?

I think if we want to be prepared for this new form of communication, we should start today by increasing the number of publications on the WEB, these days I see most of the groups mesmerized with "likes" on Social Media, and neglecting the web, like it is a thing of the past. Spoiler Alert! Social Media may not last forever you know. Besides that the Tiktok generation will probably want some more direct form of acquiring knowledge than we have today and this could very much be to just talk to an AI, like a digital companion. This revolution can potentially arrive before the so-called generic Metaverse planned by Mark Zuckerberg at Meta.
 
Another good thing would be to make the academic content freely available on the web, sometimes these fancy academic websites are just accessible using credentials (login/password) so Google or any other search engine is not able to index the articles, therefore the AI will not be trained by its very good and reliable content.
 
It's too early to say who will win this fight of AIs, right now Google seems to be better prepared. Whoever manages to become the most used one will determine how the society perceives reality and concepts in this new world. We, as veg activists, will have only one weapon in this fight, which is to increase the volume and quality of our publications on the web to try to influence the AI's point of view on the subjects that are dear to us.
 
Alex Fernandes
IVU Webmaster

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